BRINGING THE THREADS TOGETHER
In the film Contact, Jodi Foster plays a scientist named Dr Ellie Armstrong who first discovers signals from an extraterrestrial intelligence. The first signal is the number pi which is a transcendental number, a number which goes on forever and never repeats itself. So far, pi has been analysed to 50 billion places without there ever being a repetition. Then the signals take the form of Prime Numbers which are likely to be the basis of any universal language. The point of this film is clear: mathematics represent an absolute in the universe discoverable by any intelligent species. Of course, some challenge this view and say that we simply create or construct the laws of mathematics and there is no proof.
The signal, however, is not simply mathematical. Overlaid on top of it are detailed plans to build a complex structure, the purpose of which is not clear. The cost is a third of a trillion dollars and eventually the decision is taken to proceed. There is space within this structure for one person and, eventually Ellie is selected to go. She enters above the structure which rotates at incredible speed. The capsule containing Ellie is dropped into the centre of the structure and she finds herself speeding through a wormhole in space. After a brief interval she goes down another wormhole, and then another to emerge in the Vega star system. She is then placed gently on a beautiful beach where she encounters her dead father with whom she used to be very close. She realises that her father is not real and